Cornerbacks containing more than just completions
Tramon Williams would prefer to pitch a shutout every time he steps onto the field, but it's 2014. Life for an NFL cornerback isn't as easy as it once was.
When you do have a pass completed against your coverage, it's just as important to diminish the damage. That's exactly what happened when New England Patriots receivers veered into Green Bay Packers' secondary last Sunday at Lambeau Field.
By cornerback coach Joe Whitt's count, the Patriots targeted Williams 11 or 12 times over the course of Green Bay's 26-21 victory. Seven of those passes were completed, including a Brandon LaFell 2-yard touchdown, but the overall damage was minimal (28 yards).
"I don't think that's ever happened – when somebody catches seven balls on you and it's 28 yards. That's pretty good," said Whitt of the low production in the face of completions. "We have to tackle receivers. We're going to lose some on backs and tight ends on times, but we have to be able to be 100 percent on receivers and I thought we did a good job in that game with that."
The defense's tackling has been up-and-down this season, but Whitt has been pleased with his cornerbacks' approach for the most part, particularly when it comes to containing receivers after a catch.
Watching film before Sunday's game with New England, Williams could see the Patriots were a team that wanted to throw balls underneath and allow their receivers and tight ends make plays down the field.
It was up to the Packers' secondary to stand up to it. For the most part, they were pleased with how things played out.
"I felt that was a big factor that played into the game," Williams said. "As soon as guys got the ball, they were down on the ground. Our defense has done an excellent job of stopping the run. We've done an excellent job of tackling on the perimeter. When it was all said and done – small things make big things."
The Packers' secondary is in for another challenge this Monday against the Atlanta Falcons and All-Pro receiver Julio Jones. Roddy White also could be a concern if he's able to return from his ankle injury. He missed Sunday's 29-18 win over Arizona and hasn't practiced this week.
Jones is a cause for concern, picking up where he left off after fracturing his foot last season. He has 82 catches this year for 1,169 yards and five touchdowns in 12 starts. He's coming off his best performance of the season against the Cardinals, grabbing 10 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown.
Still, Whitt says any of his top four cornerbacks are up for the assignment. Sam Shields could get the call if he's cleared from the concussion that's sidelined him this week. If not, there's confidence Davon House could get the job done.
The secondary knows Jones will get his targets. Its job is to contain him, especially if he gets the football in his hands.
"I think it's big, especially when you're playing some of the receivers in this league," Williams said. "The way the rules are set up. You can't touch guys, give them a little bit more space to get separation and get the ball and try to make plays that way. For us to make those tackles as soon as they catch the ball, it's big because a lot of teams count on those things."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod